With Democrats reeling from the criminal conduct of their own State Senators you’d think Republicans would be poised to take advantage of this embarrassment. But that is not the case; recent polling shows that Republicans are about to embrace as their candidate for governor a legislator with his own problems with criminal conduct.
That would be Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino) who in 2012 was arrested for bringing a loaded gun onto an airplane at the Ontario airport. Donnelly later brushed this off and was given probation as he pled no contest to violating the nation’s anti-terrorism laws, but since September 11, 2001, law enforcement has had little patience for those who endanger airline passengers with guns.
Later Donnelly was accused of violating his probation by using guns that were not his own. It also turns out that he has a conviction for larceny, which could have made him ineligible for probation in the first place. Donnelly denied having any prior criminal record prior to his arrest in 2012, and blamed the larceny conviction on a drunken college prank.
But polling by the Public Policy Institute of California in late March shows Donnelly running away with the Republican nod to face Gov. Jerry Brown in November. He leads with ten percent overall to just two percent for Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, and two percent for former Treasury official Neel Kashkari. Another Republican candidate for governor, Glenn Camp, served 10 years in prison for manslaughter but does not register any support in the poll.
So why is Donnelly doing so well? The answer lies in the nature of the Republican voter. As the party has atrophied over the past two decades its voters have dwindled to a small number of elderly whites many living in all white gated communities, retirement homes, and far out rural counties. They are trying, unsuccessfully, to escape the demographic and ethnic changes overwhelming their once white middle class California. Their fears are best illustrated by antipathy to immigration reform, which they see as just empowering more non-whites.
So on Election Day they look for the Anglo Saxon names on their ballot, and this explains why Kashkari, who has been campaigning across the state but whose name is hardly Anglo Saxon, is running even with someone named Blount who has done nothing but has an appealing last name. For Kashkari to beat Blount will be tough; it will be even tougher to beat Donnelly who has some semblance of a campaign. Kashkari would need to give suspicious elderly Republicans a solid reason to vote for him, but his campaign so far has been bland platitudes like opposing Brown’s high speed rail and supporting business tax relief. He has made no impact.
So it is worthwhile to profile the race between Brown and presumed GOP nominee Donnelly. First, it is important to consider that Donnelly has no money and will raise no money. He burst onto the scene as a member of the Minutemen, a band of vigilantes who ride around the border threatening immigrants. Donnelly is a self admitted gun fanatic in a state highly suspicious of unregulated firearms. And Jerry Brown starts with $20 million in the bank to which will be added millions more from Democratic activists and labor unions.
Those millions will flow once Democrats figure out, as they will, that a Donnelly candidacy gives them the chance for an historic landslide that will create a super-super majority in the legislature of more than 60 Assembly members and more than 30 Senators. This will open the door for long sought progressive causes such as much higher taxes on business and the wealthy, getting rid of Proposition 13, and extending Obamacare to undocumented aliens.
Criminal conduct by politicians will be a major issue this election cycle; the media will see to that. Having a Republican candidate for governor with criminal convictions will send the business establishment scurrying to Gov. Brown while suburban Republican voters flee the ticket in droves.
Elections are about turnout. An embarrassing Donnelly candidacy will keep Republicans home in November but with a GOP candidate out of the Minuteman anti-Latino posse, it can be assumed Latino turnout will be massive. People do vote their fears, and Latino turnout has been much higher the past two cycles than Republicans expected. Along with Asians, they are now straight ticket Democratic voters. So a good estimate is that Brown will win re-election with 75 to 80 percent of the two party vote in November.
And that is the key to a massive Democratic landslide. The lesson of recent elections that there are no longer swing voters in California, ticket splitters are as rare as Dodo birds. Republicans thought they had some winners in the legislative and congressional races for competitive seats in 2012, but Gov. Romney failed to carry these districts, and the GOP candidates below him on the ballot did little better than he did. The top of the ticker dragged down everyone underneath, and all the competitive Republicans lost.
So it is now possible to list the losing Republicans in 2014 based on the likely Brown percentages in their districts. The first group includes all those hopefuls who have launched campaigns against sitting Democrats in the legislature and in Congress. These are nominally marginal districts, but Brown will outpoll Donnelly by an average of 25 to 30 points in these districts. There is no possible way any of the Republican candidates can achieve sufficient ticket splitting to overcome this margin, so they might as well spend their money summering in the Riviera as running for office.
The second group are the Republican incumbents and candidates in open GOP districts. This group includes Sens. Andy Vidak and Anthony Cannella, Congressmen David Valadeo and Jeff Denham, and the GOP candidates running in the open Buck McKeon and Garry Miller congressional districts. Here the Brown margin will exceed 20 percent and may even reach 30 percent in some cases. All will lose.
The final group that puts the Democrats into the super-super majority are currently safe Republican incumbents in Congress and the legislature. It is not possible at this time to list those who will lose by name as some may luck out by ending up in same party Republican runoffs. Some are unopposed now, but with the evident Democratic landslide building behind the Donnelly candidacy, smart Democrats will mount write-in efforts in the primary to make the November ballot.
Generally Donnelly will run 20 points behind Romney in most Republican-held districts. This will translate to potential straight ticket Democratic wins in any district where Romney got less than 70 percent in 2012. So the overall Republican congressional and legislative losses this coming November could be very high indeed, transforming California government from moderate to left of center into a hard left wing unique in California history.